There is a study that was conducted at USC about 10 years ago about Bayesian Surprise Theory. Human subjects were shown video clips, some of which contained "surprising" elements. The study attempted to measure whether the surprising elements were effective in capturing human attention. The results were very convincing:

"We find that subjects are strongly attracted towards surprising locations, with 72% of all human gaze shifts directed towards locations more surprising than the average." 

This conclusion ("surprise attracts attention") may not sound very surprising to you (pun intended!) but from this simple observation we can find some pretty cool applications in sales.

For example, if the first part of executing an effective cold call is to get the prospect's attention, we have scientific evidence that surprise is a tool we should be using. 

The physiological response of surprise is classified as a startle response, which causes the subject to "interrupt an ongoing action and reorient attention to a new, possibly significant event."

So how do we create surprise?

Believe it or not, there is a mathematical definition for surprise and it pretty much says that surprise is defined as the difference between the posterior and prior expectations of the subject. 

This means that to create surprise, we have to first understand the "prior" expectations that prospects have about cold calls - and then maximize the difference between that expectation and our delivery. 

If we do it right, we are rewarded with a few valuable seconds of attention, during which the prospect will quickly test if this surprise element is worth engaging with - or not.

How do you create surprise in your outreach?